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Waters Statement in Opposition to Bill that Undermines the Iran Nuclear Deal

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Washington, DC, December 13, 2017 | comments

Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Financial Services, gave the following floor statement in opposition to H.R. 1638, a bill that would undercut the viability of the Iran nuclear deal:

As Prepared for Delivery

The legislation before us now, H.R. 1638, the Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act, represents what the Republican majority has become very good at doing: advancing bad public policy while claiming to advance the public interest.

H.R. 1638, the Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act, would require the Secretary of the Treasury to report to Congress on the estimated total assets under direct or indirect control of certain senior Iranian leaders and other figures, along with a description of how these assets were acquired and are employed, regardless of whether such individuals are subject to U.S. sanctions. Although increasing transparency into corrupt regimes is a laudable goal, H.R. 1638 works counter not only to its own stated objectives, but also U.S. national security interests.

First, the level of scrutiny that would be needed to produce a credible report would place a very real strain on the Treasury Department, diverting significant resources away from Treasury investigators who are tasked with targeting conduct that is actually sanctionable, implementing existing U.S. sanction programs, and uncovering illicit conduct across the globe, including, importantly, efforts to identify the web of business interests that continue to enable North Korea to evade U.S. and international sanctions.

In addition to diverting scarce and critical resources, the bill’s required report would have little use as a compliance tool, given that the most important parts would be classified, undercutting the legislation’s own stated objective to help make “financial institutions’ required compliance with remaining sanctions more easily understood.” In fact, the creation of such a list, which would not be tied to any prohibition or legal action, would more likely create confusion among the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s regulated public, and also mislead companies to believe that the Treasury list replaces the due diligence efforts that they should otherwise be doing prior to engaging in business in Iran.

Moreover, because the report would be largely classified, the bill would do little to draw the Iranian public’s attention to the corruption and unjust enrichment of their leaders, which is another stated purpose of the bill. In fact, any unclassified portion would inevitably be rejected by both the Iranian regime and its people as U.S. propaganda and a predictable attack on the country’s government by the United States.

The true purpose of the legislation is to create reputational risks for companies that might seek to do legitimate business with Iran. For this reason, the bill would be a strategic mistake, as its report would undoubtedly be seized upon by Iran as an intentional effort to discourage international investment in Iran, which would be viewed by Iran—and likely by the major world powers who joined us in the JCPOA as well—as a violation of the expressed U.S. commitment under the nuclear deal not to interfere with the full realization of the relief provided to Iran under the accord.

When a nearly identical version of this bill was considered last Congress, the Obama White House threatened to veto the bill, stating that it would “endanger our ability to ensure Iran’s nuclear program is and remains exclusively peaceful.” Moreover, the Obama Administration cautioned that the report called for in the bill could also compromise critical intelligence sources and methods. On that score, I would also note that the reporting requirement in the legislation calls for information about how sanctions evasion and illicit conduct is practiced, and potential countermeasures. It seems far from prudent to give tips to our adversaries about how we learn about their misconduct and how we plan to respond.

This legislation would have very limited practical utility, despite the huge diversion of resources it would take to produce. It also fails to meet its own stated objectives, including serving any usefulness as a compliance tool. Finally, the measure would also likely have a negative impact on the continued viability of the nuclear deal, which is clearly a central objective.

I am hard pressed to think of a single piece of legislation that works so strongly against every single policy goal it claims to advance.

Few issues are more important to global peace and security as preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. This bill would do nothing to advance that goal, and in fact, if enacted, it could do grave damage to the important progress that has been made.

I urge my colleagues to join me in opposing this measure.

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